How to Prepare for the National Car Test (NCT)

The National Car Test (NCT) was introduced in Ireland in the year 2000 to help improve road safety and to help improve environmental protection by reducing the number of defective vehicles from our roads. The NCT is a compulsory vehicle roadworthiness inspection and if caught using a car without a valid NCT test certificate you could get three to five penalty points and a €60 to €90 fine.

Cars which have celebrated their 4th birthday and which are under ten years old are tested every two years and cars ten years and older are tested annually.

NCT Centre’s do not automatically notify you when your NCT is due to be renewed, you have to book the test yourself. This can be done up to 90 days before your certificate is due to expire.

Presently the test costs €55 and a re-test (if booked within 21 days of the initial test) will cost €28. Re-tests, which do not require the use of a test lane, will be free of charge. If you cancel a confirmed appointment less than 5 working days beforehand or if you don’t show up for the test, a €22.00 surcharge will be added the next time you bring the car for the test and €11.50 will apply to a re-test. NCT test centres accept cash, debit cards and most credit cards, but they do not accept cheques.

Figures show that over 51% of cars tested (702,765) failed their NCT test in 2016 including many that had to be towed away from test centres as they were deemed un-roadworthy.

The National Car Test is helping to reduce the number of road accidents by pointing out such defects as faulty brakes, worn tyres and defective headlight aim. NCTS has offered employment opportunities to approximately 800 people throughout Ireland. The NCT has created positive spin-off benefits for other sectors of the motor industry including, garages, importers, motor dealers and car parts, exhaust and tyre centres.

Date & Time of Test

Always remember the date, time and venue for your NCT test and show up at least 10 minutes before your allocated time

Exterior & Interior Preparation

Ensure your car is clean inside and out for your test. This is more than just a case of removing road grime, but ensuring that items to be tested are clean. So make sure the lights, windows, mirrors and registration plates, both front and rear are clear and undamaged. If possible clean the underside of the car too – most brush washes offer this option. You should also de-clutter the interior. Empty the boot and remove anything that is likely to get in the way of the tester – and that includes child seats. If they are present the tester is obliged to ensure they are fitted correctly. Ensure that seat belts are fully visible and in good condition. If the seatbelt is frayed or cut it may result in failure. Also make sure your car horn is functioning properly

Check Lights

With the engine running, check all indicator bulbs, dipped and high beam headlights, parking lights front and rear, lighting of the rear number plate, fog lights and even brake lights. Ask a friend to help with the latter or check them in the reflection of a window.

Fluid Levels

Check that all the fluids are topped up properly. That includes oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and windscreen wash. Most of these are clearly labelled under the bonnet and easy to top up.

Suspension & Warning Light Check

The majority of cars that fail the NCT do so because of suspension issues. It is always advisable to have a qualified mechanic check this for you. Likewise, if there are any illuminated warning lights on the dashboard it is time to visit the mechanic. Warning lights for the likes of airbags are an instant failure while NCTS may not even conduct the test if the engine management light is showing.

Tyre Inspection

Inspect your tyres for damage or bulging and replace if necessary. When replacing remember that tyres must be the same size across the front or back axles. The rear tyres can be a different size from the front but the ones on the front must match up. Also check the tread depth; the legal limit is 1.6mm depth across the middle of the tyre, but if they are that low, it is time to change them. The tread depth should only be measured when the tyres have been properly inflated. This information can be found in the manual which would have been supplied with your car when new.

Since April 2010 all cars presenting for NCT must have ‘E stamped’ tyres. These have been certified to comply with EU and other international tyre safety certification standards. Due to this rule finding non ‘E’ stamped tyres in Ireland is difficult, but if you have purchased part worn tyres they may have come from outside of the EU and therefore not be stamped.

Test Requirements

The NCTS request that the wheel nuts are visible, so remove hub-caps or alloy wheel centre caps before bringing your car for test. Check the condition of your wipers and replace the blades if necessary. Give the car a good run beforehand as well so the engine is up to operating temperature.

It is very important that you bring your car’s documentation with you to the test centre. NCTS won’t even look at your car unless you have the vehicle registration book, registration certificate or licencing certificate with you. You will also need documentation for yourself. It does not matter if you are the car’s registered owner or not but you must have identification (driving licence or passport). Since May 2012 the rules state that an NCT certificate will not be issued unless the person presenting the car for test has identification.

If your car is due its NCT test don’t fail to prepare, or you may prepare to fail.   Preparation is the key to success.

The best of luck with your test.